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Recently I’ve had to learn the art of saying no.

  • No, you cannot work here anymore.
  • No, you missed your (free) life coaching consultation and I don’t have time to reschedule.
  • No, you cannot come visit me with one week’s notice even though you live on another continent and we don’t see each other often.

Well of course I say it in a much nicer, more refined way.  But at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to: NO.

In high school I was mean (in fact, that’s an understatement).  I cussed people out, slammed girls into lockers, gazed at them with the equivalent of daggers and more.  Like I said, mean.

Since then, a few things have changed.

I grew out of my hormonal teenager phase, I’m no longer angry and depressed, I opened up a yoga studio, became a life coach and more. [Yes, there were a few things in between!] and I now pride myself on being kind and compassionate in all aspects of my life.

But what that means is that I’ve also become TERRIFIED of going back to being the mean girl (maybe now it’s not shoving someone into a locker, but hurting someone’s feelings by saying “no” can feel equally evil, if you will).  For me, the thought of hurting someone’s feelings is gut-wrenching.

And I believe a lot of women can relate.  I’ve spoken with countless friends and coaching clients, so many of whom worry that by saying “no” they’re letting people down, hurting people’s feelings, and actually kind of being mean.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize: whenever we agree to things that our gut tells us not to do, we inevitably end up paying the price.  Maybe not that day, maybe not even a month later, but EVENTUALLY we pay.

I certainly have.

I’ve taken on clients that acted flaky to begin with and were clearly less than committed to our work together.  Here’s what happened: I ended up having to chase those clients on a weekly basis – sometimes having them ghost on me, sometimes having them drop out early, sometimes having them “need” to switch appointment times every week.  And I can tell you that the amount of time and energy I put into those clients left me drained, resentful and frustrated.  NOT worth it.

I’ve agreed to trips I didn’t really even want to go on to begin with, which basically amounted to daytime drinking followed by nighttime drinking for three days in a row.  Here’s what happened: I felt SO physically drained and hungover that my body, my work and my mentality suffered for the entire following week.  Again, NOT worth it.

I’ve entered into relationships – or at least gone on multiple dates with guys that felt less than a good match because I was too afraid to say no, or to break it off.  Here’s what happened: I ended up spending more time with guys who weren’t a good match, spending hours (and energy) deliberating with friends on the best, least-offensive way to break it off, and ended up having to have a way more awkward conversation weeks in about how “it’s not you, it’s me,” rather than just cutting it off at its source.  Once again, NOT worth it.

If you can relate, I invite you to ask yourself: what are you saying “yes” to that you wish you could say “no” to?  And what’s the price you’re paying?  Is it truly worth it?

As a life coach, I work with a lot of women around what it means to live in alignment with our true selves – and my feeling is that WHENEVER we are living in misalignment, it’s never “worth it.”

So here’s my rule of thumb:  if you feel in your gut that a person, place, activity or commitment is a “no”, then it’s a “no”.  Rather than running to your [best friend, significant other, confidant] about how you wish you had said no to “Sarah,” instead utilize that time with them to have the conversation about how to kindly and gently tell “Sarah” no instead.

And lastly, just remember that like anything else, saying “no” is just another muscle we have to build.  Yes, it feels terrifying and so uncomfortable when we first start, but it gets easier as we get stronger.

So next time you’re tempted to say “yes” to something that your gut’s telling you just isn’t right, remember this quote by Nea Joy, “By saying yes when you need to say no, you cripple the most important relationship in your life: the relationship between you and you.”